Belmont Wrapup: Avian Adventures


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The stock of Birdstone and Medaglia d'Oro has certainly risen as a result of this Triple Crown.  What I find even more interesting is that each stallion has seemingly stamped their respective running styles on their offspring!  I look forward eagerly to the future exploits of Summer Bird, Mine That Bird, Rachel Alexandra and Payton d'Oro.  There's a lot of great racing still in front of us.  I sure hope MTB handles SA's ProRide better than he did last BC.  I have a hunch he just might.

09 Jun 2009 1:44 PM
Matthew W

Steve great post! Injuries aside, I thought all three TC races were big wins, totally "legit", and I'll go so far as to say I think the Belmont winner, no longer the "other bird", will be top dog by season's end--top three year old among a strong group!

09 Jun 2009 2:11 PM

I have waited patiently for your wrap up and of course you did not dissapoint. I was glad to see you mention the "move of doom" on the big sandy. Taking MTB out wide and making the move at the same time is sure disaster. I know you have said your book writing days are over but I couldn't help think through many of these interesting moments during this journey is that this is what horse writing journalism is all about. You just couldn't make this stuff up. The stories are written for you. More "Tales from the Triple Crown"! How perfectly would these fit into that book??? I bet you really had a great time this year.

Furthermore I have to make something right. I spouted off about Chip Wooley after the derby. I thought he was arrogant and a big jerk. I must say after watching him and getting to know him a little better on camera, I have changed my mind. I am happy for him and I think he handled himself graciously through these last couple races.  I will forever be a fan of MTB... I just fell in love with him and his tenacity.

09 Jun 2009 2:22 PM

I have to agree Steve. I never thought I would be so anxious to see a Triple Crown behind us. With so many early favorites out with injuries, owner changes, and jockey changes. I'm ready to move on. However, I do see something positive with Mind That Bird. Because he's a gelding I believe he'll be good for racing for a few years to come. I live in San Diego and I hope his connections race him at  Hollywood Park before it's torn down. I know this is off topic but, I am beside myself that a track with such history is set for demolition. Any word of Stardom Bound anyone? I think a hook up with her and Rachel would be a great race to look forward too. Onward!!      

09 Jun 2009 2:23 PM

With three different winners in this years triple crown races it will be interesting which one will excel the most later this season. Will horse of the year go to an older horse or one of the three winners of this years triple crown races? It will be an exciting year and I am looking forward to this summer and falls races. May they all stay healthy.

09 Jun 2009 2:27 PM
Karen in Texas

Absolutely agree that this Triple Crown has been one big avian adventure! The winning horses, their sires, the connections, the backstories have combined to create a result that could not possibly have been foreseen only a few weeks ago. That MTB and Gabby's Golden Gal both prepped in New Mexico adds a new dimension to racing in the southwest, with recognition that is probably overdue. The number of black cowboy hats at Belmont made my Texas-born heart smile, and validated my belief that the general public had developed a great deal of affection for little Mine That Bird. Congratulations to Birdstone and Medaglia d'Oro and may they keep up the good work! Thanks, Steve, for another insightful synopsis.

09 Jun 2009 2:42 PM

Great writing Steve!  This was such a neat TC journey for 2009.  Too bad about Dunkirk's injury though.  He kept going farther than I thought he would.  I kept waiting for him to tire and fall back but it did not happen.  Best of luck to all the horses and their connections in racing the rest of the year.  On to the Breeders Cup!

09 Jun 2009 2:46 PM

Summer Bird is lightly raced and IMO probably has the most upside.The rest of the season should be very interesting and exciting.

09 Jun 2009 2:58 PM
For Big Red

Somethingroyal: Not only is Hollywood Park going to disappear, but Schwarzenegger is thinking about selling the Del Mar Fairgrounds. That would probably spell doom for the lovely track Bing built.

Also, Santa Anita's future is by no means assured.

I'm beyond saddened that racing in California has reached such a low point. :(

09 Jun 2009 3:12 PM

Alot of feel good stories this year and it was nice to go through the 3 races without a breakdown and without the "drug cloud" hanging overhead like last year.

As far as the cowboy hats go I hope those in attendance had the decency to take them off and not block someones view of what was going on. There is nothing more rude than to put on a big hat and stand or sit in front of someone who paid good money to see.

09 Jun 2009 3:22 PM
corona cash

what is the deal with unbridled song?  EB, OF, and now dunkirk not staying sound?  He sires some fast horses, but the soundness has got to be questioned.  What do i not understand?  

09 Jun 2009 3:31 PM

I said "a Bird in the race is worth two in the Belmont!"...just wished I'd sandwiched Dunkirk! LOL.

I agree about the move...when CB came moving around the outside on the turn I just looked over at my husband and said "Calvin has no idea how long that stretch run is in the Belmont"...I bet he does now, and I don't say it meanly or snidely...guess I'm saying he's lost his naivete' about the Belmont.

Happy to see QR is on the road back. Hopefully all will heal for the fall and stay sound...

09 Jun 2009 3:33 PM

Oh and I forgot to say thanks for the great story about SB's connections and their great story...

09 Jun 2009 3:35 PM

schabelli, guess you won't be attending a KD anytime too soon if you're worried about big hats!;-)

09 Jun 2009 3:56 PM

For Big Red: I am so outraged just thinking about what Arnold has up his sleeve for Del Mar. What I don't understand is why the CA horse industry isn't doing all it can do to block the demolition. To think a racetrack  with such a history will be no more, is pretty depressing.

I was at Hollywood Park a few weeks ago to watch Zenyatta win the Milady Handicap and I couldn't get over how empty the stands were. I started my two hour drive up early from San Diego early because I was expected a crowd to watch Zenyatta make her 09 debut.  I still get an erie feeling knowing I was standing in a grandstand that once housed thousand of fans who cheered on the likes of Citation, Swaps, Native Diver, Seabiscuit, Round Table, just to name a few. I wonder what they'll do with Native Diver's grave.

09 Jun 2009 4:09 PM

Unbridled Song was not the soundest of horses. I believe he has the reputation as a stallion that passes it on to many of his offspring.

09 Jun 2009 4:10 PM

Unbridled's Song = brilliant but fragile.  Too bad the brilliance is all people care about these days!  I was also shocked Dunkirk carried his speed to far.  Probably like many other people, however, I was not at all surprised he came out with an injury.  Seems par for the course with big efforts by US's.  I would bet he's not coming back.

I adore Calvin Borel.  I have since his KD win on Street Sense.  I think most people saw this coming all week, unfortunately.  Why he decided to not ride AT ALL in the preceding week is beyond me.  I've learned to look past his guarantees (he did that with SS in the Preakness, I remember), but the lack of preparation baffles me.  One could conceivably fit in a few racing days with the sightseeing?

09 Jun 2009 4:14 PM


I hate to be the one to point this out. Big hats have a long standing tradition at the Kentucky Derby.  Del Mar's opening day in San Diego is known for it's big hats as well.  

09 Jun 2009 4:17 PM
Karen in Texas

da3hoss---Yeah; I wondered if big, floral, festive brimmed hats were somehow less obtrusive than cowboy hats. Maybe they are?

09 Jun 2009 4:23 PM

Thank you Da3hoss.... What's with the comment about the cowboy hats??? I have seen much bigger hats at the derby.

09 Jun 2009 4:32 PM

Karen in Texas - Don't leave out the filly, Carlsbad, in those horses coming out of the Southwest!

09 Jun 2009 4:56 PM

So whats next for Birdstone sireing a different winner in all three legs of the triple crown next year. Speaking of books can anyone suggest a good horse book I read seabuscuit about five years ago and I was hooked on horses ever since. Sucks about Dunkirk hope the operation goes good for him.

09 Jun 2009 4:56 PM
Karen in Texas

Kat---Sorry, Carlsbad, too, winning on the west coast!

09 Jun 2009 5:25 PM

JB STONED, yeah, we on this blog can recommend several, LOL,

"Tales from the Triple Crown" by Steve Haskin,  

"John Henry" (Thoroughbred Legends) by Steve Haskin;

"Kelso": Thoroughbred Legends by Steve Haskin

"Dr. Fager: Racing's Top Record Setter"(Thoroughbred Legends by Steve Haskin

"Horse Racing's Holy Grail: The Epic Quest for the Kentucky Derby" by Steve Haskin

I'm not sure what's still for sale here in the book section, but you can get them all at

09 Jun 2009 5:30 PM
Pam S.

To J.B. Stoned:

There are a number of horse books I have gotten a lot of enjoyment and knowledge from.  Do not miss "The Race for the Triple Crown" by Joe Drape and "Horse Racing's Holy Grail" by our own Steve Haskin!!

Really, really don't miss "Ruffian:  Burning From the Start" by Jane Schwartz and "The Big Horse" by Joe McGinniss.  These two are more sad.  And if anyone really wants a good cry, try "Chosen by a Horse" by Susan Richards.  This last one is about a woman who adopts a neglected harness horse.  

And on the subject at hand, I too loved the Belmont wrapup, Steve.  If only the filly were named ROBIN Alexandra it would be just too perfect!

09 Jun 2009 5:34 PM

Mr. Haskin,

That you for the great articles you write about my favorite sport. You sure know how to turn a good story into a wonderful tale.

What is that I read? "Your book writing days are over..."

This year's events would make a wonderful book and you always seem to find details that nobody else knows about. If what I read is true, PLEASE reconsider!

09 Jun 2009 5:37 PM

PS: I forgot to add that a cowboy only takes off his hat for God & his mother...or a soldier's funeral.

09 Jun 2009 5:38 PM

J.B. Stoned,

    Ruffian Burining from the Start is one of my favorites. I also have a book on Man o War and Native Dancer, both were good. I don't know the authors off the top of my head but if you want me to check i can get there names and the actual titles of the books if you interested.

09 Jun 2009 6:09 PM

J.B. Stoned: "Northern Dancer" by Muriel Lennox, about you know who.  "Stud" (but I can't remember who the author is) about Storm Cat and others - very entertaining.  You want any racing histories?

Pam S: "robin" alexandra! lol!

oh yeah, good column Steve.

09 Jun 2009 6:48 PM

"Horse Heaven" by Jane Smiley.  One of my faves. It's a wonderful novel that covers 2 years in the lives of several horses and the people around them.  It is available in paperback at Amazon. I bought a copy recently at Costco.

09 Jun 2009 7:31 PM
Matthew W

Steve, I think the Japanese mare Vodka is the best miler in the world right now...any chance of her and Goldikova gettin it on in October at Santa Anita??? Along with Zenyatta/Rachel they will be the best races of the weekend....

09 Jun 2009 7:52 PM
Don from Delaware

Nice story and glad I stuck with my first bet boxing 4 6 2 7 for my superfecta with win bet #4 adn #6...

BUT don't agree on the description of

a flawless race, looked like #6 got

crushed hard by #2 and #7 and cost him second? May have caused #2 his

injury as well....looking forward to'

the rest of the season of racing..Don from Delaware

09 Jun 2009 8:04 PM

Beautifully written column, Mr. Haskin, as have been all of yours I've read.  I love the in-depth, human/horse-interest style you capture so well.

I can't be sad that my second-favorite Bird won the Belmont.  I was sort of expecting it.  Hoping there's no problem with that pesky tendon down the road.  May he pass on those powerhouse Bird/Squall genes in a few years!

Kudos to Dunkirk & connections, too. When I heard about his fracture, I remembered reading about that problem with his sire's progeny right here in the blogs.  May he heal clean and continue to run with the best.

And I'm real glad MTB will get some downtime now. I expect he'll draw crowds wherever he goes in the future.  He's an Everywo/man kind of horse and we love him.

We're all Winners this year.  It's been an exciting TC series and likely to get more so as the year progresses. I, for one, will be watching and reading!

09 Jun 2009 8:10 PM

I also like the "Robin Alexandra" quip!

09 Jun 2009 8:33 PM

Nice wrap up to a great TC! My heart (and money) was for SB and MTB in all three races. Those who doubted now believe...

A very good book is WILD RIDE. Sad tale of Alydar and his connections but very informative on many subjects in horse racing.

Maybe one day there will be a book about Birdstone titled THE LITTLE HORSE THAT COULD.(And did)

09 Jun 2009 8:36 PM
John T.

You done a great job as usual Steve throughout the entire Triple

Crown races keeping us all informed

I was happy for our Canadian 2 year

old champion Mine That Bird doing so well in all 3 races and he almost emulated that other small sized Canadian champion Northern Dancer who won the Derby and Preakness and finished third in the Belmont.

09 Jun 2009 9:11 PM

Thanks for the overview of the last of the TC races. You wrapped it up in rare form & officially put Belmont 09 on "ice".

09 Jun 2009 9:49 PM

Mr. Haskin, I knew you wouldn't let me down, that you'd bring it home with the just the right final


 I've followed Summer Bird since his first start, his victory in the Belmont was long awaited vindication for Summer Squall, Charismatic and a timely tribute to Alysheba.

 Tim Ice gives me hope...

09 Jun 2009 9:55 PM
Rick S


Really nice Belmont Wrapup!!!!

As odd as this Triple Crown was, and as boring Saturday morning was... i'm sorry it's over!


09 Jun 2009 10:20 PM
Warning Drums

I never miss a word of yours in any medium, Steve. I'm a devout fan. But I am genuinely puzzled by the persistent questioning by you and others of Rachel Alexandra's role in the TC races this year. I have never seen questions like these raised about any other horse entered in any other race.

What is wrong or even unusual about somebody buying a good horse and running her in a big race, especially since she was so obviously qualified to be in that company? I was hoping that perhaps Summer Bird's victory in the Belmont would put an end to all the grousing about Rachel Alexandra's Preakness run, but apparently it hasn't.

I suspect I am oblivious to some subtext that motivates all the ill will surrounding RA and her connections. But I continue to be baffled by the coverage. Maybe you can address it in a future column?

09 Jun 2009 10:26 PM
Steve Haskin

Warning Drums, relay to me my exact words questioning Rachel's participation in the Triple Crown and I will address them.

09 Jun 2009 10:36 PM

Thank you Steve (and Lenny) for great TC coverage. I am laughing out loud over the fatigue comment about RA and her photoshoot. It has been a real rollercoaster this year and I too am glad to move on. MTB is now a forever fan favorite. Admittedly I am still fuming over last years Belmont. My congrats go to Summer Bird. A fantastic book is "Etched in Stone". Packed full of racing history and details the final resting places of all our beloved horses. Moving forward I am optomistic about the rest of the year.

09 Jun 2009 10:39 PM

Wonderful reflection and cap on The Belmont and The Triple Crown, Steve.

I am saddened by Dunkirk's injury.  As you have said, he has such a beautiful stride.  He surely looked ready to run and I was shocked by his taking the lead and holding it on to it until late in the race.

I have to say Mine That Bird and Summer Bird seem like very tough athletes.  What a joy it was to watch them run.  Steve, do you know the difference in their height?  I would guess Summer Bird to be at just about 16 hands.

Yes, this could have been a huge Triple Crown year.  I don't quite understand Jess Jackson's reasoning with Rachel Alexander.  I personally, would have liked to see her run against Zenyatta at some point in the future, perhaps the Mother Goose.  I know that is a hot topic for some, even in my family.  We all don't agree about Jackson's decisions.

Thanks again, for your clever insights and character details.

09 Jun 2009 11:28 PM
Warning Drums

I hate to single you out, Steve, because I am seeing a similar sentiment expressed by many. And I'm a little surprised by it - given how many times I have privately wished that so-and-so-horse had not been entered in such-and-such-race.

In your current article (the Belmont Wrap-Up), I guess I am responding more to your tone than any outright statement, although I have read and heard you question RA's entry in the Preakness. And I don't mean to be critical - merely quizzical.

All three paragraphs addressing RA's participation in the TC seem wary. Am I being oversensitive?

"Meanwhile, everyone was waiting for word on the Belmont status of Rachel Alexandra. Finally, almost two weeks after her Preakness victory over an unlucky Mine That Bird, owner Jess Jackson made the expected announcement at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 29 that Rachel would not run because “she needed a vacation.” Did she not need a vacation on May 25, 26, 27, or 28th? Did she start showing signs of fatigue immediately after her May 29 photo-shoot for Vogue magazine? The timing just seemed very odd."

"Rachel’s defection left the Belmont Stakes without a horse trying for the Triple Crown or a rematch between the Derby winner and the femme fatale who defeated him in the Preakness. That sent the New York Racing Association’s marketing department scrambling to try to salvage some sort of advertising campaign to promote the race."

"No one knows how Rachel’s unexpected presence in the Preakness affected the Triple Crown, especially the Belmont Stakes, but as industrial tycoon Arthur Jensen said to mad newscaster Howard Beale in the movie Network, ‘You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale.'"

Yes, I remember the fuss about War Emblem's rapid change of connections before the KD, but it faded over the course of the TC races. I'm just baffled over the bad rap that RA is attracting. And I apologize for throwing it at your feet.

10 Jun 2009 12:15 AM
point given

Nicely written piece, I enjoyed the read.Glad to find out that the offers for the Summer Bird deals fell through.and that the original connections got their 15 minutes in the sun. TRuly a unique year of racing with lots more to come during the summer and fall.

10 Jun 2009 12:21 AM

Another great article Steve!  Thanks for all your great information and entertainment!

Poor Dunkirk!  Hope he will be okay!  Pretty great finish for an injured horse!

J.B. Stoned: There are two really wonderful books about the great Native Dancer.  One is part of the Thoroughbred Legends series by Eva Jolene Boyd (the better of the two in my opinion) available at Exclusively Equine and the other is by John Eisenberg which I found on Amazon.  "The Most Glorious Crown" is a real nice history of the triple crown winners and Mr. Haskins "Tales of the Triple Crown" is great.  One more real good book is "Here Comes Whirlaway" that I found on E-Bay. Happy reading!

10 Jun 2009 1:54 AM
Abbie Knowles


A really good horse book is Jay Hovdey's book about CIGAR!  Beautifully written and very interesting.  I think the Bloodhorse shop still sells it; if not Amazon had some copies last time I looked.  It is a cracking good read!  Really keeps you hooked from page one!

All the best to Dunkirk.  Hope he makes a speedy and full recovery!

Best Wishes


10 Jun 2009 5:29 AM
sweet terchi

Great column Steve! Your way with words is amazing. My hat is off to Chip Wooley for his graciousnes in losing with MTB. After waiting to give Calvin every opportunity in order to secure his services, he didn't lash out at him. In hindsight we can say that MTB might have won with a more experienced "Belmont" jockey, but CW held his tongue. Not to take anything away from SB. May both of them stay healthy and hopefully we will enjoy MTB for many years to come.

J.B. Stoned, as for books,along with all the ones mentioned, (Horse Heaven was great!) try Horses of Proud Spirit by Melanie Bowles and a couple by Judy Andrekson, Brigdier: Gentle Hero, and J.B.Andrew: Mustang Magic. anncat's suggestion of Amazon was excellent. Type in any of the above mentioned titles and follow the links.

Somethingroyal and For Big Red! Hello fellow San Diegans!! HP is doomed, maybe SA, but hopefully DM won't go that route. Honestly, do you think the city of Del Mar will be gung ho for development? LOL! I can see the horrified expressions already!! Not to mention the dithering of the EPA over the marshlands. Arnie will have a bona fide fight on his hands, so let's keep our fingers crossed! :)

10 Jun 2009 6:27 AM

A great little book, albeit basically written for kids, about the great Exterminator and one of my favorite books as a child is "Old Bones" by Mildred Mastin Pace. Lots of history of racing at the time...

10 Jun 2009 6:58 AM

I am so rooting for Einstein to get that Grade 1 dirt win in the SFH! When he does, Steve, you are so going to have to write his "tale"!

10 Jun 2009 7:05 AM
OnThe QT

You belong among the very best writers that I have enjoyed over the last 59 years.

Stay healthy

10 Jun 2009 9:26 AM
Steve Haskin

QT, Terchi, and everyone, thank you for the kind words.

Warning, once again, point out in those words where I said or even hinted that Rachel should not have run in the Preakness. I alluded to the fact that she changed the course of the Triple Crown (and did it tongue in cheek), which she did. I never said she shouldnt have or that it was wrong, I stated a fact. Can anyone deny that had MTB won the Preakness, which he most likely would have, we would have had at least 50,000 more fans at Belmont? There was no editorializing in that comment or passing judgment on the decision to run her. The other comments were strictly about Jackson's procrastination in announcing what he had decided much earlier, that she was not running in the Belmont, which was the right decision, but the wrong timing.

10 Jun 2009 10:05 AM
Pam S.

Must say I agree with Sweet Terchi about Chip W.  He is a real gentleman cowboy and deserving of more good horses to train.  But right now if he doesn't slow down and rest, his leg is going to take forever to heal!  

I just remembered another book that I got at the library about 12 years ago.  It's called "Straight From the Horse's Mouth,"  published in 1975, don't recall the author, but a search on Amazon should turn up a used copy or two.

It is the life stories of many TB greats such as Whirlaway, Forego and more, as if they were written by the horses themselves.  Any racing ran looking for a light-hearted (but full of details) read would love it, I think.

10 Jun 2009 10:33 AM

Steve, great article, and to your last comment I can only ask "then why bring it up".  After any big race there are always those that take away from the winner by implying or insinuating something, and by simply bringing it up it looks evident that you feel she somehow robbed the race of fans.  I find it very interesting that when a filly or mare is in the running for horse of the year there is this very loud cry that "she didn't beat the boys!!"  Yet when she does, she has all this other "what if" stuff to carry around.  Quite honestly, it’s evident in blogs and articles that there are some who just feel resentment when the boys are beat by a filly and they will find any foolish reason to diminish the win…and immediately want to set up some kind of match race.  Huh??  Why???   When Eight Belles had her tragic accident there followed all this fear about a filly running against the boys, and now, if RA wasn't up to the Belmont, or if it made no sense to put her through that race vs. the others down the road, and if the connections decided it is in her best interest to pass (for health, durability, maturity, whatever)....she is suddenly solely responsible for 50K fewer fans??!!  I really believe if you scratch anywhere you can find anything provocative to bring up and hash over, but really,....RA's well being and career vs. 50K fans.  If she was yours, what would you choose?  So why even bring it up?

10 Jun 2009 10:59 AM
Warning Drums

Hi again, Steve. You don't need to publish this comment. I don't want to belabor the debate, and I readily concede your points. Certainly I am sensitive to the need to create an audience for racing and I'm aware of the effect RA's "defection" (words like that are what trouble me) from the Belmont had on revenues and popularization of the sport.

I love your coverage of racing and I expect you are just the unwitting victim of my alarm over "anti-RA" sentiments that have been expressed in other venues. Maybe I even looked to you to decry those sentiments.

In the end, it's a bad time to do anything to weaken the racing industry further, and I wish you all luck in your continued and much appreciated efforts to keep the sport exciting for all of us who follow it and reap the benefit of the horses. (Warning Drums is my Caveat mare.)

Thank you, sincerely.

10 Jun 2009 11:09 AM

Sweet Terchi:

My real conceren about Del Mar is that the track sits on a nice chunck of valued in the millions.  I'm certain Arnold and commerical developers are keeping their fingers crossed in their favor. For San Diego horse owners and training centers it would be a bad thing if Del Mar were to no longer existed.

10 Jun 2009 11:18 AM

My sentiments are with you "For Big Red", just thinking about Hollywood Park being bulldozed to the ground is gut wrenching. These are hallowed grounds for horse racing. Hialeah, Bay Meadows, Hollywood Park and maybe Del Mar. I am sure I missed a few. Just so sad, what a state this industry has allowed itself to get in.

I know its a little early but it looks like the Euros may have the edge again come Breeders Cup day. Racing on synthetics again at Santa Anita. Other then our filly and mare division I see no standouts in our 3 and 4 year old division to challenge them. Horse racing has lost its identity, it's that simple. This Triple Crown  campaign which started out so promising in February ended up with 3 different winners. I actually think Rachel saved the country's interest in these races. The connections did the right thing by the horse in not running her in the Belmont. I am not sure she could get the mile and a half distance. Now Dunkirk is on the shelf. He ran such a beautiful race in the Belmont and he sure is a looker. So now here we are with our 3 year old division decimated by injuries and wondering what the future holds for our once divine industry.

Thanks for the great articles Steve you have been one of the reasons I continue to buy and read Bloodhorse Magazine.

P.S. Can you tell me how Vineyard Haven and Midshipman are doing and if they will ever race again.


10 Jun 2009 12:17 PM

A quick note about Dunkirk's injury and the earlier facts pointed out by Mr. Hakin's concerning shorter workouts.  Bone responds to stretching and bending forces by thickening, laying down more bone to become stronger.  Without the seven furlong works, and the past practice of working horses much longer distances, it is probable that the cannon bones are less strong than those of horses in the past.  That point was addressed before the Belmont in Steve's comments about changes in training techniques.

A condylar fracture may well be the direct result of those 'modern' training methods.  This is more likely than any genetic predisposition inherited by Dunkirk.

10 Jun 2009 12:24 PM
Steve Haskin

wwstp, I bring it up because I'm covering the race and her defection from the Belmont Stakes is part of the coverage. To ignore it would be irresponsible. The fact is, both her presence and departure from the Triple Crown made a huge impact on it. There is no denying that. As I stated, I agreed with the decision not to run, so when you state "RA's well being and career vs. 50K fans.  If she was yours, what would you choose?" it makes me wonder after reading an over-the-top comment like that if you're really reading what I'm writing.

10 Jun 2009 12:25 PM

I, like just about everyone else, never miss a word of your columns Steve.

I have really enjoyed "Chip and Charlie's Excellent Adventure" and am hugely impressed with how graciously Chip has handled the media onslaught.

I know having a Triple Crown contender is important to racing, but I think the results of the Belmont showcase all the facets of race horse ownership admirably.

You had a 9500$ yearling, a 3.7M$ yearling and you had a homebred taking the top spots. Something for everyone.

10 Jun 2009 12:42 PM


I read the whole article and as usual, it was wonderfully written.

I had no trouble at all with your mention of RA.  You just stated facts and anyone following the TC understands that.  I believe she added a lot to it this year.  As far as I am concerned, the Preakness was the most exciting race of the series this year.  That filly has loads of appeal.  Not taking anything away from MTB of course.  He was a marvelous story as well but the two of them racing against each other was breathtaking.  

10 Jun 2009 1:07 PM

Steve,  Your article was just the perfect icing on the cake.  It was beautifully written and I really enjoyed the story about Summer Bird's connections.  It seems the Birds are very lucky in their owners and trainers.  

I think some readers are being just a little oversensitive about statements regarding Rachel.  She brought an unusual and exciting aspect to this year's Triple Crown by both her absence and her presence.  Her presence at the Preakness resulted in more interest (though 40,000 less in attendance because of the infield alcohol ban - I won't say less fans because those people weren't really fans anyway- just drunks)  And her absence from the Belmont plus the fact that no one was running for a Triple Crown resulted in less interest in the Belmont from casual fans.  This is NOT unusual.  There is always less interest from casual fans when there is no Triple Crown runner.  So goes Tc 2009.  But for those of us who followed it and love it - it was a fun and interesting ride.

Steve, did you hear Mitch Albom's comment on ESPN after the Belmont?  Was I alone in feeling it was extremely bitter and anti-racing.  He essentially said that if there is no Triple Crown - there is no point and after this long we might as well give up.  He totally misses the point.  Every person involved on the horse side of racing knows that come spring there is always hope and developing the next crop is more than half the fun.

Finally, Steve, I have asked over and over on these blogs for some word of Stardom Bound.  There has been absolutely no answer and I'm beginning to be very nervous about her.  Can you find out something and let us know, please?

Oh and thanks everyone for all the book recommendations.

10 Jun 2009 1:36 PM

Steve thank you very much for a very

nice narrative. Your summation has brought closure to a very perflexing, frustrating, but intriguing triple crown saga.

I am sorry that my admiration for

Calvin has somewhat dimmed. By going wide, he definitely lost valuable ground. His overconfidence showed lack of respect to other runners and their professional jockeys. I am an admirer of M. Kinane. He is one route jockey who understand that the rail is the shortest distance

to the finish line.

I will always wish Calvin the best of luck. I just hope he does not also lose that one endearing quality - humility.

10 Jun 2009 2:04 PM
Lisa Funk

Mr. Haskin-

As always, wonderful Triple Crown coverage by everyone at Blood Horse magazine. I just have a few points to make regarding the comments made about Calvin in your article. I may be the wrong person to write this given my personal relationship to him, but I feel I must. First of all, I take offense to your opinion that somehow along the way Calvin was distracted from his job by  his "celebrity" status leading up to the race. The comment made about him spending the entire week in New York doing nothing but apearing on TV and "sightseeing" is completely false, unless you call the sauna in the Parker Meridien Hotel a "sight to be seen" in NYC. The truth is, he spent most of his time resting, watching each horse's past races on my laptop and studying his racing form. The image you've painted of him wandering around the city with a camera around his neck is laughable, as is the idea that a 4 days without riding would render him unfit and unprepared. Theres nothing Calvin would have wanted more than to be in the Jock's room at Belmont or Churchill- riding races. In fact, convincing him to do shows like Letterman, Leno and GMA was like pulling teeth he is so adverse to that sort of thing. But he decided that it would be the best thing for our industry- so recently plauged by the bad press surrounding breakdowns,track closures and steroid abuse that it would be a good for horseracing if Calvin made himself accessible to a wide variety of media and gave them something of a more positive nature to focus on. I cannot read your comments such as the one that accuses Calvin of becoming so absorbed in the lime light that he's forgotten what has put him in the camera's glare in the first place without wondering if you even take time to think before you type. Calvin Borel has NEVER and will NEVER forget where he came from or what got him there, and I have the entire backside at Churchill Downs and countless other tracks around the country to back me up on that fact. There is not one jockey in this entire industry who works harder than Calvin, and who is LESS likely to let an appearance on some late night talk show distract him from his job, which to him is more important than all the fame, money and noteriety in the world combined. No, he didnt win the Belmont, and yes, the easy, lazy way to explain Mine That Bird's loss would be to chalk it up to rider's error. However, if you actually watch the race, you'll see that the Mine That Bird we saw in the Derby- the horse who dropped the bit going into the first turn and relaxed the entire way down the backstretch allowing Calvin to save ground and tuck in behind horses was definately not the Mine That Bird we saw in the Belmont. You can only fight a horse for so long and you cannot force them to relax. If the horse who has only a 3/8ths of a mile kick refuses to relax from the word go, you will not have anything left at the top of the stretch- it doesent matter if you are head up for the lead or trailing the field turning for home. More than your simplistic armchair quarterback critique of his ride, I am disapointed in your insinuation that Calvin shirked his responsibilities in exchange for a bit of camera time. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and it saddens me that someone who's opinion I have always respected and reporting I have always admired could come to such a cynical and blatently incorrect conclusion.

10 Jun 2009 2:57 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, Terri. I've never heard of Mitch Albom, so I wouldn't pay much attention to what he said. The people with no knowledge of racing that ESPN tosses in the mix for no reason should have little importance on anything. Did you hear that classic question some guy asked Mark Allen. At first he asked him what the plans were for Mine That Bird after the Belmont. Allen said they were going to race him, and this brilliant interviewer asked, and I quote, "Why?"

Allen answered, 'because he likes to run," He should have said, "because he's a gelding, what do you suggest I do with him?"

Stardom Bound is on the farm in Kentucky and doing very well. She's put on weight and is expected to be sent to Dutrow in a couple of weeks. If all goes well, she'll probably have three starts this year, but they're really excited about her for next year.

10 Jun 2009 3:02 PM

Steve, Thanks. A great article on Lou Rondinello marking Little Current's 1974 Preakness/Belmont blow-aways, sadly forgotten today.  I have a copy of "Straight from the Horse's Mouth" and it IS an original and humorous, while informative read. 'Did not hear Mitch Albom, but do these ESPN guys dismiss horse racing because they don't get it, and don't care to get it.  Steve Haskin walks in the early a.m. barn footsteps of the greats:  Red Smith, Joe Hirsch, Jim Bolus...too many to list, who capture the color and heart of racing.  No place for that in ESPN's shouting pontificating.

10 Jun 2009 3:10 PM

Steve: I have always valued your writing sensitivity to this sport but it seems that you are a bit ruffled by some of the comments made about Rachel's defection from the Belmont. People are just sharing an opinion and although I agree with you most of the time, I do think that it is only speculation how many more fans would have come to the race if Rachel would have ran. I think people need to get out and enjoy this sport for what it is regardless of who runs and who doesn't. In fact, I heard many people say that Rachel's defection affected the money bet on the race and how many fans came to the park. I think statements like that are negative and speculative at best. They should not be said, just my opinion. Journalism and reporting are supposed to be factual, not speculative.

What did you think of ABC's telecast of the race? I thought Goldberg was awful and Randy Moss brings nothing. He always seems to diss the California horses. I think Gary Stevens and Chris McCarron would have been a much better fit. Bailey's comments about Borel being on MTB in the Preakness was classless. Mike Smith is a great jockey.

Thanks for your great articles.............

10 Jun 2009 3:15 PM

I completely understand the criticism of Calvin's ride because I was pleading with him from my sofa to not start his move while still on the backstretch.  However, I believe him when he says Mine That Bird did not want to settle.  Perhaps he needs things to be just so in order to show that amazing kick.  And we can't forget that Mine That Bird's extended Derby move kept him going forward and away from the field all the way to the wire.  Calvin probably expected the same sort of widening kick down the lane at Belmont.  And finally, perhaps Mine That Bird needed to do more in the three weeks between the Preakness and the Belmont.  Remember how Matz sent Barbaro out for a quick quarter mile breeze the day of the Derby?  As I recall, that quarter mile turned into much more after Barbaro refused to shut down right away.  It didn't seem to hurt him at all and perhaps it was the reason he was so relaxed for Prado during the race.  Not to take anything away from Chip, but how many races has he won at twelve furlongs?  It may take a bit more of this and that to make sure the horse doesn't want to do exactly what Mine That Bird did - fight the jockey.  In other words, I feel Calvin is taking all the blame when perhaps the horse was not in the best frame of mind to compete in his third Grade One in five weeks while having to go a mile and a half.

10 Jun 2009 3:30 PM
Karen in Indiana

Thank you, Steve, for such a well written wrap up of the TC season. You put into words the drama and back stories that put the period on the sentence.

Warning Drums, I didn't get any anti-RA out of the story. What I can say, from my point of view, is that I did not like the seeming hypocrisy of Jesse Jackson saying he was doing something for the good of the sport and then doing something that lessened the impact of the season. This is a subject that has been bashed to death on other blogs here, but my thoughts are 1) How is it good for the horse to change everything in her life and then ask her to race at the highest level, 2) How is it good for the sport to possibly prevent the chance of a TC by throwing her in the middle of the races (this is not hindsight, this was discussed before the Preakness) and 3) would it not have been so much better for the sport to have her race fresh after a 5 week break against a possible TC winner in the Belmont? That would have really been big drama and the crowds and the take would have been huge. And if there was no possible TC winner, it still would have had the same impact that having her in the Preakness did. Jesse Jackson had every right to run her when he did, but should have called it for what it was - a rich man playing with his new toy.

10 Jun 2009 3:37 PM
Steve Haskin


I'm sorry you took the comments that way. Perhaps I'm at fault for not being clear, and perhaps I was too direct. As I stated, Calvin deserved to take some time away from the track. I just felt it was a mistake for him not to take any mounts over a track like Belmont that he was unfamiliar with. I was not alone in that thinking. Jerry Bailey was among the many who was critical -- he stated so on ABC. I also felt he should not have been as adamant as he was making the gurarantee he was going to win. The Belmont Stakes is a very humbling race. When everyone asked him about not taking any mounts (at the media luncheon) he became very defensive and made it sound as if it was a stupid question. It's difficult for anyone not be distracted by everything that Calvin did Belmont week, and again, I have nothing against him doing it. I did not mean to imply he was sightseeing all week. But the Belmont Stakes requires extreme concentration trying to negotiate the mile and a half and those turns, and I've seen too many riders with little or no experience fall victim to the track. as I also stated, which you failed to mention, was the brilliance of his other rides and that this will always be Calvin's Triple Crown. When I praised him after the Derby and Preakness I did not hear from you, nor would I expect to. It seems kind words and words of praise often are taken for granted and ignored, yet any kind of criticism is taken harshly. I'm sorry if I made Calvin out as some media hound. It was not what I intended.

10 Jun 2009 3:46 PM

Steve, I think that there is no question that Borel should have accepted some mounts either on the undercard -preferably - or at least at some point during the week.  You are certainly correct about the difficulty a rider and horse encounter when riding Belmont.  It must be difficult enough to figure out when to change leads while negotiating those huge sweeping turns.  It's another thing to determine when to make your move since it won't be at the same point on the turn as at Pimlico or Churchill.  I think he'll learn something from this experience.  He's a fine rider and doesn't need to carry Churchill around with him to win.  Hang in there!

10 Jun 2009 4:06 PM

Lisa Funk, I appreciate your eloquent defense of Calvin Borel.  I am and always will be a big fan of his, but it seems to many observers, including myself, that he made the common mistake -- made by countless jockeys before him, especially those inexperienced with the Belmont oval at that distance -- of moving his horse too soon.  I understand your point that the horse would not relax and was fighting Calvin, but even Woolley said in the interview immediately following the race that he thought Calvin moved MTB too soon.  On the other blog, Ron Turcotte regarding these common early moves in the Belmont Stakes stated:  "I can find many many more that have done the same thing".  I believe Calvin would have been better served if he had taken mounts on the undercard or during the week, as that would have assuaged some of the criticism that he is inexperienced at this venue and therefore does not fully grasp the importance of patience and timing in the Belmont stakes.  And although Steve Haskin certainly does not need me to defend him, I feel compelled to say that your comment that Steve does not think before he types is both rude and ridiculous.  I realize you are upset, but please don't insult one of the best and most thoughtful turf writers.  Lisa, good luck to both you and Calvin.

10 Jun 2009 4:34 PM

Boy from watching the replay of the race it looked like going into the first turn MTB settled right in behind the field. It also looks like CB had him closer going down the back stretch thinking the pace was slow. I believe he was quoted as saying the same(about the pace). I also think MTB looked the same (calm) in the post parade as in his other races. At the end of the day it was a combination of things that got him beat.

10 Jun 2009 4:36 PM

Stardom Bound returning  to the track is great. IEAH giving her to Dutrow is a mistake. She needs to be with the trainer who had her last year.Dutrow does not have the skill to handle a sensitive filly like Stardom Bound. Big Brown was  a gallop around Belmont Park and he could not get that done. IEAH, Dutrow and Stardom Bound  is not a good situation. AS soon as those folks bought her last fall I knew she was in for a rough road.    

10 Jun 2009 5:24 PM
Karen in Texas

I agree with Bill's comment that Calvin will probably use this Belmont as a learning experience. Regardless of which "problems" contributed to the outcome of the race, Calvin now has this set of circumstances firmly implanted in his knowledge base and can draw upon the new information when needed. He has probably rethought every aspect of Saturday afternoon repeatedly, including the fact that he did not ride on the undercard.

10 Jun 2009 5:25 PM

CB is 88.7 percent responcible for MTB Belmont performance. Whatever MTB showed up Borel should have been prepared.Blame the 11.3 percent on the silly retention barn. If Stardom Bounds last years trainer is not available give her to MTB trainer. As I mentioned earlier Dutrow is the wrong guy. A stall at the big A and Stardom Bound does not work for me.

10 Jun 2009 5:46 PM

Bob R,

    How on earth did you get those figures? I'm not being rude, i'm just wondering where you came up with the 88.7 and 11.3. It's just kinda weird to me.

10 Jun 2009 7:53 PM

Hi all  This is my first post but I have been reading the post since the Derby.  I must admit I did not pick MTB in the derby, but when I saw him slip through the rail and win, I fell in love with him.  And was very glad a NM horse won as I'm from NM. That little guy reminds me of Afleet Alex who was a big favorite to me.  I hope that he is around for a few years more.  

I must admit I was disapointed that CB left him in the preakness to ride RA, and was a little upset, but I got over it and was glad he was back for the Belmont.  I was a little worried that MTB seemed a little more agitated and that he was acting up.  I'm disapointed he didn't win but he gave a good showing in all three TC races and all NM is proud of him.  

I'm sure Calvin will take away what he learned from the Belmont, and the next time he rides in the Belmont he will do much better. Good Luck to both Calvin and Lisa

10 Jun 2009 9:09 PM

Thanks for responding to my book question, I actually have read "The Big Horse" just recently and appreciate your suggestions!

10 Jun 2009 10:00 PM

Pam S,

I did read the first half of

"Chosen by a horse" not sure if I want to finish it, seen my wife read it first.

10 Jun 2009 10:10 PM

I wouldn't have had confidence in Borel to ride my horse in the Belmont after he left him to ride the other horse in the Preakness.

Wooley should have chosen his riders earlier.

Your reporting of the TC was excellent, Steve. You make the stories real for anyone reading them.

11 Jun 2009 7:02 AM

The mile in the Belmont was run in 1:37.4, the mile and a quarter in 2:01.3  Thus, the fifth quarter was run in 23.4.  In that quarter, Mine That Bird went from 5 and 1/2 lengths off the lead to the lead.  Using the equation that one length equals one-fifth of a second, Mine That Bird ran the fifth quarter of the Belmont in 22.4.  Is it any wonder he had nothing left for the last quarter?

11 Jun 2009 11:00 AM
Soldier Course


Isn't "Horse Heaven" a classic? I first read this novel not long after I made the jump from casual fan to racing fanatic, so a lot of it went over my head at that point. But I kept returning to the book and saw more and more in it with each new reading. Now a copy sits on my nightstand, and I read a random passage or two every night. You can open the book anywhere and be entralled by Jane Smiley's gorgeous writing and amazing insight.

Not long after I discovered this novel, I bought a large silver collar pin, oval-shaped with grooves etched all around the edge so that the piece resembles a racetrack. Instead of monogramming the pin with my initials, I had the jeweler put "JustaSmile" on it. I get lots of questions about this, and therefore lots of opportuntities to talk about racing and the book.

Will you ever forget JustaBob?      

11 Jun 2009 2:20 PM

Thank you so much for the great information about Stardom Bound.  Now I can quit worrying about her.  Nice to hear she's being a horse for awhile and I can't wait to see her on the track again.  

I just read the new info about Calvin not being able to get a ride at Belmont either during the week or on Sat.  That is just weird!  I can't figure that but if he couldn't get a ride, he certainly deserves no criticism because he didn't.  It must have been very frustrating for him and, in that case, he was very gracious to remain so self-contained in the face of so much commentary.  I will always admire Calvin because he loves the horses, always gives them credit and rides with respect and consideration for the horse.

I love Mine That Bird (Summer Bird is growing on me) and his performances in all three races was thrilling.  He and all his connections have nothing to be ashamed of or "what if" over.  "What If" being a favorite past-time I'm sure it'll happen but he was a joy and I'll be watching him for as long as he runs and after.

Steve, I brought my copy of Tales of the Triple Crown with me to the Preakness and Belmont just hoping I'd be able to get you to sign them.  I accidently ran into Chip Wooley at the Preakness in front of the booth that sells all the photographs - why not hope to run into you.  Oh well, one of these days.

For Soldier Course, JustaBob is a fixture in conversations in my family.  Couldn't you just picture Mine That Bird standing in the pond.

11 Jun 2009 3:21 PM

To JB Stoned:

To add a couple of titles:

The Byerley Turk

Sweet William(out of print, but you can get it rather cheaply on Amazon)  A tough read.

The Horses of Proud Spirit

The Longest Shot

Funny Cide

11 Jun 2009 4:46 PM
My Juliet

  Steve, I am new to this blog and enjoy your articles very much. I didn't know you were an author of those racing books, as da3hoss mentioned. I'm looking forward to reading one soon.

   For Big Red, I am very surprised about SA, that it's future is not assured. While hearing of some track's closing, and attendance being down over these past years, I have always thought of SA (and NY and KY tracks) at least as untouchable. I was fortunate to visit SA as a kid in the 1970's and remember how beautiful it was, palm trees and mountains in the distance. Maybe horseracing can regain the popularity it once enjoyed -like in the 70's:) In my opinion changes probably need to be made for that to happen.

11 Jun 2009 4:46 PM


JustaBob, also is a part of our family.

11 Jun 2009 4:47 PM
Soldier Course

TerriV, Freetex, and anncat:

And who can forget Epic Steam discovering his true self, jumping the fence into the mares' paddock that morning?

And Froney's Sis dropping in a dead faint when they tightened the girth?

And Mr. T home at last?

And on and on ...

11 Jun 2009 9:28 PM

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